A new powertrain for a trusted platform |
The Expedition’s greatest asset remains its efficient (relatively) powertrain and great torque curve
The large SUV class is one that nearly everybody has tried to play in, but only a few have succeeded. Trucks like the Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Dodge Durango continue to be leaders, whereas the Toyota Sequoia and now-defunct Nissan Armada have seen smaller sales numbers. Even though this segment is largely populated by the GM fullsizers, Ford’s entry has always been a strong contender. We first saw the Expedition in 1996 as a 1997 model, and it has since seen evolutionary updates and changes. This year, there are a few heavy tweaks to freshen up the truck, so we borrowed a 2015 Ford Expedition Platinum to see just how good the restyled model would be.
At first glance, the Expedition doesn’t look like a huge departure from the previous model, and this would be an accurate prediction. This fullsizer is aimed at conservative buyers who want a good old-fashioned SUV with no frills attached, which delivers a fantastic driving experience for the segment and is loaded with creature comforts. A new front fascia including grille, new headlights, and LED foglights set off the styling, and new wheels (20” on our tester) give it a premium look not unlike that of its sibling, the Lincoln Navigator. The side profile and rear end are virtually unchanged other than the addition of chrome accents and very subtle modifications.
Under the hood is where the magic happens with the new Expedition. Gone is the old gas-guzzling V8, as good as it sounded. While the redesigned Yukon/Suburban/Escalade family from GM still makes do with 5.3L and 6.2L V8s, Ford has thought out of the box a little bit. The Expedition adapts the great new EcoBoost V6 seen in the F-150, Flex, and Taurus SHO. It’s a turbocharged 3.5L unit that pumps out a healthy 365 horsepower at 5000rpm and 420 lb-ft of torque. Peak torque shows up at 2500rpm, which is a huge benefit for those who choose to tow trailers or boats.
The engine itself pulls hard and quickly off the line, definitely surprising performance for an SUV that comes in close to the 6000lb mark. Our tester was a four-wheel-drive Platinum model, which is the heaviest short-wheelbase Expedition available. Even still, we had no complaints from the motor and I don’t really miss the V8 at all. The EcoBoost makes a great sound and you can very obviously hear the turbocharger spooling up on acceleration. Throttle tip-in is sharp and there’s no sluggishness off the line. At highway speeds, the new Expedition is quiet and comfortable, as the six-speed automatic holds engine RPMs considerably lower than expected.
Full-size SUVs have always excelled in the ride quality department, as is evidenced by the cloud-like ride in my own daily driver, a ten year-old Cadillac Escalade. The Expedition’s suspension is nice and comfortable under most circumstances, but remains firm enough to prevent the big kahuna from wallowing around during cornering. The CCD (Continuously Controlled Damping) system helps considerably with this, as does the independent rear suspension. It’s important to remember that the big guys from GM still have live axles in the rear. The CCD allows the Expedition to soften/firm up the suspension based on three settings – Comfort, Sport, and Normal. This setup adjusts the shocks based on road conditions, steering, and overall weight adjustments. I left it in Comfort mode for the majority of my test, and the big Ford was more than happy remaining in this setting.
Predictably, the Expedition doesn’t handle as well as other products from the Ford stable, namely the Focus ST. However, the new electric power steering system assists nicely enough for the truck to be one-finger-steerable at parking lot speeds, but nice and heavy on the highway so overcorrection isn’t necessary. At 17.2 feet in length, parking lot maneuvers must still be carried out carefully and with full use of the large side-view mirrors, constant shoulder checks, and the convenient rear-view camera.
Fuel economy is never something to brag about with full-size SUVs, but the replacement of the big American V8 with the more frugal EcoBoost V6 means it’s actually improved about 15% over the old model. Even still, our test consisted of a good amount of city driving, and we saw roughly 15L/100km combined. I saw some highway mileage drops to the 11L/100km mark, but this would take a hit every time spirited passes were attempted, something that’s quite enticing when you have 420 lb-ft of torque to play with.
A huge advantage to real SUVs like the Ford Expedition over smaller entries such as the Acura MDX is interior space. Even with the optional second-row bucket seats ($400), the Expedition can hold seven real people. The third row isn’t restricted to kids and luggage; six-footers can actually use this space without feeling ridiculously cramped. The extended-wheelbase Expedition Max (18.4 feet) helps even more with this, and adds a considerable amount of extra luggage space in the trunk behind the third row. Even the standard-length Expedition is sufficiently roomy and would be a great companion for road trips where things like strollers or large suitcases are required.
Our 2015 Expedition was the Platinum trim, which with a few option boxes ticked off, stickers in the $75,000 range. Though this may seem like a steep sum compared to the Expedition’s base price of $49,999, Ford is continuously offering great incentives as well as decent lease and finance options. I expect a significant percentage of Expeditions to be written off as business leases, because they serve a specific purpose very well. For this price though, Ford gives you everything you would expect in a premium SUV, including a sunroof, leather upholstery with heated and ventilated seats, the full MyFordTouch infotainment system with enough USB ports and power outlets for the whole family, Bluetooth connectivity, iPod compatibility, satellite radio, and navigation. Our truck also had a trailer hitch, LED fog lights, HID headlights, and automatic climate control.
A heavy refresh for this model year allows the 2015 Ford Expedition as well as its sister, the Lincoln Navigator, to become more competitive with the redesigned GM triplets, which were given a full overhaul for 2014. The only real flaw with this SUV is the dated styling and the very obvious age of some of the interior bits, but these can also be perceived as conservative rather than bold. The Expedition’s greatest asset remains its efficient (relatively) powertrain and great torque curve, which is definitely superior to that of its rivals. This truck actually proves to the entire market that full-size body-on-frame SUVs no longer need a fuel-hogging V8, and that a well-engineered V6 does the job perfectly well. Families who have been happy with Expeditions of the past will undoubtedly see the appeal of upgrading to the new model, and the economical bonus may even bring over some loyal customers of Ford’s rivals.
2015 Ford Expedition Platinum Gallery